‘Judiciary Act’ To Expand Supreme Court Supported By Elizabeth Warren

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In a new article for The Boston Globe, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote that she is in favor of expanding the size of the U.S. Supreme Court in order to undercut the impact of recent Republican machinations surrounding the nation’s highest court. These maneuvers have left the court with six conservative justices, including three who were appointed by Donald Trump — and the court has just nine justices overall. In Warren’s piece, she wrote that she supported adding four or more justices to the court. A bill has already been introduced in the Senate during this Congress that would add four additional justices, although it doesn’t have a lot of support.

In the meantime, Warren observed the staggering scope of what’s hanging on the next steps for the court. A decision will be coming from the court in the near future about whether an anti-abortion law in Mississippi can remain on the books, and that case is poised to have significant ramifications for other state-level fights over abortion rights, too. The Supreme Court has already — repeatedly — allowed a near-total abortion ban to stay in effect in Texas, with litigation over that issue continuing to unfold.

Warren wrote as follows:

‘With each move, the court shows why it’s important to restore America’s faith in an independent judiciary committed to the rule of law. To do that, I believe it’s time for Congress to yet again use its constitutional authority to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court. I don’t come to this conclusion lightly or because I disagree with a particular decision; I come to this conclusion because I believe the current court threatens the democratic foundations of our nation.’

Previously — and infamously, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his then-role as Senate Majority Leader, refused to even hold a hearing for a nominee for the Supreme Court from then-President Barack Obama, citing the proximity of the then-upcoming presidential election. Later, McConnell and other Senate Republicans rushed through the confirmation process for a Trump pick for the court, even though the seat opened up (because of the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg) much closer to the election. Warren added as follows:

‘This Republican court-packing has undermined the legitimacy of every action the current court takes. But rather than trying to restore Americans’ confidence in an independent judiciary, this court leans into extremism and partisanship… Without reform, the court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority will continue to threaten basic liberties for decades to come… The fact that the Supreme Court is even considering questions to upend decades of settled law jeopardizes the fundamental principle of the rule of law. But conservative justices’ recent decisions and their apparent appetite to overturn decades of precedent underscore one important truth: This court’s lawlessness is a powerful threat to our democracy and our country.’

Warren added that she believes “in a judiciary that upholds the rule of law — not one that ignores it to promote a deeply unpopular and partisan agenda at odds with the Constitution and the settled rights of our citizens. And when a court consistently shows that it no longer is bound by the rule of law, Congress must exercise its constitutional authority to fix that court.” Read more from the Senator, including her responses to arguments against expanding the court, at this link.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the court’s three liberals, has herself spoken up about similar issues. During recent proceedings surrounding that Mississippi anti-abortion law, she said as follows:

‘Now, the sponsors of this bill… said we’re doing it because we have new justices… Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible… [Certain rulings] have such an entrenched set of expectations in our society — that this is what the court decided; this is what we will follow — that we won’t be able to survive if people believe that everything… [is] all political. How will we survive? How will the court survive?’

These questions continue to loom.

Featured Image (edited): via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and available under a Creative Commons License